You know that feeling that you get when you are on the precipice of something big? Something very different than what you’re used to? Something “just around the corner”? Yes. Here I sit right in that place, holding the ache deep in my stomach, because the pit of my stomach is where that feeling resides; and it is here with me, right now as I write this devotional.
For radical readers and would-be radical readers, this isn’t a devotion from my heart, it is from my gut.
During my final, hectic year in seminary someone in a position of leadership said, “Even as we prepare to go out into the world in various ministry capacities, we can all clearly see that the concept of ‘church’ isn’t what is used to be”.
This statement jarred me out of a blind-faith march into ministry, that God would place me somewhere, in some church, to do His will. Suddenly I was awakened to a long-held, nagging fear that not only was I not being called to some church somewhere to do a nice, organized job for God, but that the very meaning, and structure of church would shift right under my feet, that something completely new and unknown to me and others, would rise from the trauma of change.
This isn’t a bad thing. It is however a frightening thing. These are scary times. I say that as a person who is living with you, right now; not in history and not in the future. We are here now. I recognize I have no place in the Traditional Church which, to me is fond and familiar. Perhaps you feel that way too. In fact, what will emerge as the new church will likely not be fully realized in our lifetime, so there, we shall have no place either. We are caught in this time of tearing down, dismantling, and building anew. Here there is no surety, few allies, and no respite from change. How does the practice of ministry and the presence of God in us endure such times?
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7 NRSV.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, glad tidings, good news, the blessed event is where the now and the next meet and connect. The practice of sharing this news, however, wherever, and with whomever, is what makes us to endure!
Don’t you see? Ministry practice outside of the church-box is practice all the same. God has called us specifically, to this time. Singer/Songwriter Joe Purdy sings this line in his song, “San Jose”,
I can’t fight your demons ‘cuz I’d have to fight you,
they’re so far inside you and I just can’t seem to get through.
It ain’t none of my business, ain’t none of my place but I still have to try
We are here expressly to participate in the dismantling, tearing down, and creation of what is to be. That purpose was here for us, before we were here ourselves. We still have to try. Practice your call, whatever that is. Practice right now, today, in these particular times. Fears, pangs, and uncertainty be damned and give way to the anticipation and empowerment that unyielding practice, perfect or not, affords.
Rev. Crystal Elliott-O’Connor lives in Lombard, Illinois with her husband Thomas and several fur-babies. Being called out of the traditional workforce in the middle of a thriving 30-year career, and into an emerging ministry of justice-awareness in Evangelicalism, Crystal is becoming quite familiar with the pangs, fears, and uncertainties of which she writes. To the practice of ministry she has been called, and practice, she will.
Find her on LinkedIn.
Phil Ochs, an apolitical student during the turbulent 60s, turned political folk singer in college, penned the lyrics to a song entitled “Is There Anybody Here”, after an awakening to society’s resistance to talk about current events in real, un-coded terms. The song that impacted me so deeply, for this very reason asks, “Is there anybody here who’d like to wrap a flag around an early grave…”
Joe Purdy in the spirit of folk-singer giants before him, including Phil Ochs, has made a name for himself through his own call and practice to write and sing lyrics that comment openly on the turbulent times in which he lives. In his song “San Jose”, Joe bemoans “Mona” a girl who seems consumed by her life and times, as he observes and surmises her current, tragic state.